Matthew Caley’s Professor Glass

Matthew Caley lives and works in London. Professor Glass (Donut Press, 2011) is his fourth collection of poetry. His first, Thirst, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 1999.
Professor Glass is Matthew Caley’s ‘lost’ fin de siècle concept collection. Its eponymous, transparent persona can barely hold his life together, never mind the narrative the reader might want to intuit between the lines of the text. He may be a professor in some unspecified subject, in some un-named university in central nowhere, caught between a loathing for his subject and his salary; between modernist certainty and postmodern doubt; between every academic / pedagogic argument going; between his wife and his nubile charges, between the body politic and a disembodied discourse; or he may only be a spectral creature forged out of the curious mix of languages found in academia. If Jean Baudrillard was right in saying reality no longer emits enough signs to guarantee its existence, the Professor’s text might represent the last, saving sparks of his own being.
“Formally outrageous, culturally light-fingered … Caley is a rare beast, an important poet yet to be discovered by his true readership, which is to say everyone.”
– John Stammers
“At last, somebody with intelligence, wit and a vocabulary who can crack open a cultural canapé and lay out its extravagance for us …”
– John Hartley Williams
Satyrs and nymphs in the foam. A spume of fire,
the wicked glint of nails and razors.
The slyest reference to the slyest reference
of Peter Greenaway. Pinhead
from Hellraiser.
Some oddbod with a head shaped like a coracle.
Choreography by Michael Clarke and Salome.
‘Venus in Furs’ by The Velvet Underground
[out of, yawn, Warhol, The Exploding Plastic Inevitable,
The Factory, Edie]
Sacher-Masoch, The Marquis De Sade, Artaud,
Terminator 1, Skin 2,
fetishists [make a long list of list
poems for a very long
shades of a Kurosawa battle,
George Bataille and the Story of the Eye,
Dominique Aury and the Story of O.
Futurists fist-fucking history.
Get in. Turn the key. Test the ignition. Drive carefully.
Who thinks it outré
to disturb the equilibrium
of my in-tray and my out-tray
to take the Balm of Gilead
or Librium
into my head, to take the lead
and kneel down at my feet
with the softest kiss. To think it neat
-er than any metaphysical conceit.
My lark, my sparrow,
I’ll let you know
what the heart is for,
the heart is made for the arrow,
the arrowhead, the pain,
ask anyone, ask Saint Sebastian.
No qualms? No doubts? No fears?
No points to prove?
To do all this yet not remove
the Discman from your ears.
Would anyone attack you?
Would your friends sing?
In the fish bowl of autumn
their faces are
fresher than the sun.
Sweet thing,
the world’s queuing
up to fuck you.
Sinsemilla Lullaby No. 1
Sleep, little pill head, sleep
so I can take a toke
on your neat pale whirlpool navel,
its turquoise and jasper
scarab-beetle brooch
and you, so beyond reproach,
inhaling deep
inside the blue-billowed smoke
as you apply
a shivery taper to the roach
and scrabble for more Rizla paper –
roll it carefully out on a Jamiroquai
12-inch single cover. A-grades for you, my dear.
Sleep, little pill head, sleep.
Undressing Kristeva
Apparently ‘the speech of the depressed
is like an alien skin’ is what she said
and, scattering petals aside, undressed,
leading me through my skin to the tousled bed.
This could have seemed somewhat heavy
for a first date
but in fact was as light as petals or duvet
feathers. So light that I lost weight
on the journey from the door to the divan.
So light that when she played upon my ribs
like a melodeon, she played on them an even
-song. From that, to go on to describe,
with a clarity that still alarms me,
how the ossified cries of a child
become the poems of a Mallarmé
or Nerval – it was as if she had willed
these words like birds from the trees.
Then she took me, took me like any lover –
elbows, eyelids, earlobes, ankles, knees –
as if none belonged to one, or to the other.
from Professor Glass (Donut Press, 2011).
Order Professor Glass.

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